Philosophy of language in the Five Nikayas

by K.T.S. Sarao | 2013 | 141,449 words

This page relates ‘The Second Buddhist Council’ of the study of the Philosophy of language in the Five Nikayas, from the perspective of linguistics. The Five Nikayas, in Theravada Buddhism, refers to the five books of the Sutta Pitaka (“Basket of Sutra”), which itself is the second division of the Pali Tipitaka of the Buddhist Canon (literature).

2.2. The Second Buddhist Council

The Second Council was held at Vaisali, 100 years after the Parinirvāṇa of the Buddha, due to a difference of opinion concerning the monastic practices between bhikkhus of the Vajjī-clan who, as recorded in the Cullavagga, preached and practiced the ten unlawful modifications, normally known as Ten Points (Dasa vatthuni), among the Saṅgha’ s Disciplines and the orthodox bhikkhus who regarded the Ten Points as illegal and prohibited by the Vinaya. And Yasa declared these practices to be illegal and immoral in the extreme.

The Ten Points considered to be unorthodox are as follows:

i. Singilonakappa, or the practice of carrying salt in a horn. This practice is contrary to Pacittiya 38 which prohibits the storage of food.

ii. Dvangulakappa, or the practice of taking meals when the shadow is two fingers broad. This is against Pacittiya 37 which forbids the taking of food after midday.

iii. Gamantarakappa, or the practice of going to another village and taking a second meal there on the same day. This is opposed to Pacittiya 35 which forbids over-eating.

iv. Avasakappa, or the observance of the Uposatha ceremonies in various places in the same parish. This practice contravenes the Mahavagga rules of residence in a parish (Sima).

v. Anumatikappa, or obtaining sanction for a deed after it is done. This also amounts to a breach of monastic discipline.

vi. Acinnakappa, or using customary practices as precedents. This also belongs to the above category.

vii. Amathitakappa, or the drinking of buttermilk after meals. This practice is in contravention of Pacittiya 35 which prohibits overeating.

viii. Jalogim-patum, or the drinking of toddy. This practice is opposed to Pacittiya 51 which forbids the drinking of intoxicants.

ix. Adasakam-nisidanam, or using a rug which has no fringe. This is contrary to Pacittiya 89 which prohibits the use of borderless sheets.

x. Jataruparajatam, or the acceptance of gold and silver which is forbidden by rule 18 of the Nisaaggiya-pacittiya.

As Yasa (and the orthodox bhikkhus) considered these Ten Extravagances to be unlawful, illegal and immoral in the extreme, the Vajji monks, in contrast, pronounced the penalty of Patisaraniyakamma upon him. This required the offender’s apologizing to the laity who had been forbidden by Yasa to carry out the precepts of the Vajji monks. Yasa successfully defended his own view in front of the laity and by his eloquent advocacy won them over to his side. This increased the fury of the offending monks who pronounced the punishment of Ukkhepaniyakamma upon him, which meant his virtual expulsion from the Saṅgha. Yasa then went to Kausambi and sent messengers to the bhikkhus from bhikkhus of the Western country and of Avanti and of the Southern country, inviting them to assemble and decide the question in order to arrest the growth of irreligion and ensure the preservation of the Vinaya. Then after, he proceeded to the Ahoganga hill where Sambhuta Sanavasi was dwelling. He saluted the venerable monk and expounded the Ten thesis advocated by the Vajjian monks. He invited him to take up this question in earnest. The Venerable Sanavasi agreed to do so. About the same time some sixty Arahants came from the Western country and assembled on the Ahoganga hill. About eighty eight from Avanti and the Southern country also joined them. These monks declared the question to be hard and subtle. They thought of the Ven. Revata who was at Soreyya and was celebrated for his learning and piety. They proposed to meet him and enlist his support. After a good deal of traveling they met the Ven. Revata at Sahajati. On the advice of Sambhuta Sanavasi, he approached the Ven. Ravata and placed the issue before him. One by one, Bhkkhu Yasa brought up the Ten Points and asked for his opinion. Each one of them was declared to be invalid by the Ven. Ravata.

Meanwhile, the Vajjian monks were not idle. They also went to Sahajati in order to enlist the support of the Ven. Revata. They offered him rich presents which the Ven. Ravata refused with thanks. However, they induced his disciple, Uttar, to take up their cause, but he failed. At the suggestion of Revata, the monks proceeded to Vaisali in order to settle the dispute at the place of its origin. Seven hundred monks met in a Council, but there was much rambling talk and fruitless discussion. In order to avoid further waste of time and irrelevant discussion, the matter was referred to a committee consisting of four monks from the East and four from the West. bhikkhu Ajita was appointed the seat regulator. The Ven. Sabbakami was elected president. The Ten Points were put one by one and they were declared unlawful. The questions were stated again and the same decision was arrived at in the full assembly of the Council. The unanimous verdict of the assembly declared the conduct of Vijjian monks to be unlawful.

According to the Dīpavamsa, the council was held in the reign of king Kalashoka, a descendant of Ajatashatru. Kalashoka though formerly in favour of the Vajjian monks, was later persuaded to give support to the council of the Thera. The Dīpavamsa points out that the bhikkhus of Vaisali convened another council in which Ten Thousand monks participated. It was called the Mahāsangīti (Great Council).

Basically, no doctrinal issues were added at this Council though the Canon of the First Council was again recited to reiterate its validity. Although the official view was determined at the Council, a considerable number of monks continued to hold on to the prevailing new practices. This led to the convocation of the Third Council which lasted nine months at Pāṭaliputta under the reign of King Asoka.

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